Bluntly put, the termination of a marriage is one of life’s most traumatic events. Divorce attorneys, unfortunately, are often perceived as an aggravating factor in the process. My objective is to put the expertise of my years of exclusive practice in the family law arena to focus on problem solving, facilitating resolution and lessening the trauma for my clients. In the emotional upheaval, I want to bring an objective, commonsensical, cost-effective viewpoint to the process. I hope to educate my clients to have realistic expectations of the outcome. Different families bring different complex dynamics so that there is no “one-size fits all” solution. Understanding these dynamics is crucial to the selection of the approach of the case. Litigation is the traditional system in which the parties resort to court intervention to decide conflicts. Because of its financial and emotional toll, it is important alternate resolution processes are explored before engaging in litigation. I will provide vigorous, planned-out representation in this adversarial setting. However, in my view, the deal you can make, over which you have control, is better than one imposed upon you by a Court. Retention of a private judicial officer to adjudicate the issues may be appropriate in certain cases.
The Los Angeles Superior Court website contains important information and provides access to Judicial Council Forms. Click on the Family Law tab for details.
Generally, California Community Property laws require an equal division of the community estate. When the division of community property is decided by the Court, the judge must apply the law to the facts of the case. Division of community property often involve complex issues of corporate law, tax law, estate planning, or bankruptcy law. It is crucial that the attorneys recognize these issues and obtain the best specialized assistance when needed. I handle complex property issues in my practice, including valuation of business(es), division of investment and property holdings. When Dispute Resolution (Mediation or Collaborative Law) is used, the distribution of the assets and of the debts may be structured in the way most adapted to the family’s needs.
California has a very regulated statutory scheme concerning child support. Parties will become familiar with the “Dissomaster” program which is commonly used by attorneys and judicial officers to determine guideline child support. Because the child support guideline formula includes a “time-sharing percentage” factor, this issue is often muddled with custody issues.
The determination of spousal support is a complex matter which is often too simplistically viewed from the outside as “you get support for half the length of the marriage” or “you get life time support because you have a long marriage” or “you have a right to be supported at the “marital life-style”. This area is in fact heavily regulated by the Legislature, filled with contradictory case law precedent and greatly subject to the discretion of the judicial officer. Whether advocating for the recipient of support or for the supporting spouse, I strive to provide realistic guidance to my clients.
Issues concerning the children of the marriage are the most emotionally charged issues in most cases. My philosophy is that, unless facing mental health illness or domestic violence, the attorney should assist in minimizing conflict, and in creating two (2) post-divorce wholesome households. In my 25+ years experience working exclusively in family law matters, I have seen families destroyed in the “battle”. I have also witnessed, however, remarkable adaptability on the part of the children and on the part of the parents.
In our highly mobile society, children are often caught between the rights of a parent to travel (i.e. their freedom to choose where they want to live) and the children’s needs for continuing contact with both the parents. Within the United States, uniform statutes apply to ensure consistency in the way courts handle these issues. In multinational family disputes, the Court, the litigants and their attorneys are not only faced with cultural differences, but also with complex issues of conflicts of law, and applicability of international treaties such as the Hague Convention (for signatory countries) and the federal laws aimed at deterring the parents from removing the children from the United States, or from other countries.
It is counter-intuitive and often difficult to foresee separation, termination of the relationship or divorce when one is in love, and in the midst of engaging in a new life. Typically, the party requesting the agreement wants to protect his or her assets in the event of a separation or dissolution of the marriage. The objective is to determine in advance how property will be divided and how spousal support will be defined in the event of the relationship terminates. In the case of a postnuptial agreement, a spouse wants to change the marital rights and obligation while remaining in the marriage. Post-nuptial agreements must be approached with care for the fiduciary obligation spouses owe to one another. All three types of agreements are generally favored by the Courts and their use has greatly increased in the last fifteen years or so. Whereas general contract law applies to cohabitation agreements, prenuptial (or ante-nuptial) and postnuptial agreements are heavily regulated.
Both Mediation and Collaborative Law are consensual resolution processes. The parties select a neutral mediator (a retired judge or a family law attorney preferably) to assist them in fashioning the agreement most adapted to their family’s needs. The mediator is not an advocate. Rather, his or her role is to educate the parties as to the legal issues in the case, to facilitate communication and offer alternative solutions for the parties’ consideration. Most mediators recommend that each party retain a consulting attorney to advise them. The consulting attorney may (or may not) be present at mediation sessions. Not all cases are suited for the mediation process.
This is a process by which parties and their respective attorneys commit to avoid litigation. If it fails to result in an agreement, the attorneys will withdraw and the parties must retain new counsel to pursue litigation. In this process, resolution is reached through a series of settlement meetings. Financial advisors, forensic accountants, mental health professionals may be retained to find solutions. Not all cases are suited for collaborative law.
The California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act extends to registered partners virtually all the rights, benefits, protections and obligations which apply to spouses during and upon termination of the union. It is important to understand the differences which apply between California law and Federal law.